Gay Marriage Debate: George H.W. Bush Said His Views Changed After Attending Friends’ Same-Sex Marriage

Gay marriage was once a major political issue for George W. Bush, who pushed for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but now his own father appears to be softening his stance on same-sex marriage.

Former President George H.W. Bush said in a new biography that his views on gay marriage have been shifting a bit since he left the White House more than two decades ago, The Huffington Post reported. Bush, who once said that Americans don’t “want same-sax marriage codified,” now says his views have changed and it was thanks largely to his longtime friends, who happen to be gay.

In 2013, George H.W. Bush served as an official witness at a marriage of two longtime friends, Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen. Not long afterward, he told official biographer Jon Meacham that he was no longer opposed to gay marriage as an institution.

“Personally, I still believe in traditional marriage,” Bush wrote, according to a snipped from the book published in the New York Times. “But people should be able to do what they want to do, without discrimination. People have a right to be happy. I guess you could say I have mellowed.”

Views across the Bush family appear to be shifting. George W. Bush, who in 2004 tried to make gay marriage unconstitutional, but appeared to back away since leaving office.

Bush family softening stances on gay marriage [Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]The USA Today reported on this shift in 2013.

“In July, George W. Bush made headlines when he said he wouldn’t comment on the issue, saying he ‘shouldn’t be taking a speck out of someone else’s eye when I have a log in my own.’ He later explained that he just wasn’t going to answer the question because he was out of politics.”

Many in the Bush family already support gay marriage, including George’s wife, Laura, and daughter, Barbara. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary Cheney is openly gay, also supports gay marriage.

But George’s brother, Jeb Bush, remains closer to the other side of the issue. Bush, who is low in the polls for the 2016 GOP nomination but considered a strong competitor come primary voting time, said he opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage.

Jeb Bush softens stance on gay marriage [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]Though Jeb Bush didn’t say he was against gay marriage itself, he said legalization should be left up to states.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” he wrote in a statement. “I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.”

“In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side,” Bush wrote. “It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

The issue is not the hot-button one it once was within the GOP, either. Though all major candidates once opposed gay marriage, today there are an increasing number of Republicans who are vocal about their support of the right for gay couples to marry. Some political experts note that the issue may fade entirely from the GOP in the coming decades.

But even Jeb Bush has expressed a willingness to support gay marriage, telling the Faith & Freedom Coalition that Americans need to support non-traditional families. The family seems to be shifting along with the general public, which has increasingly supported gay marriage in polls over the course of the last decade, with a majority now saying that gay couples should be allowed to marry.

[Picture by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images]